Carly Joins the Service
The best way to find yourself is in the service of others.”
I’ve just joined the service and I’m chock full of patriotic fervor. I’m happily sober and now ready to spread the word to help the rest of the world get sober, too. Yes, Siree! Carly had her spiritual awakening and is gung-ho ready to help others get one, too. I am the newly converted Carly the bountiful.
I was in a meeting when a woman shared that her sponsee had just relapsed. Well, I could relate to that! She’d gotten into a horrible accident, would be in the hospital for months and had no family or friends to visit her. That gave me an instant “ah ha” moment. I was ready to burst into the action of service work for others.
Please note that my two most dreaded places to be is at an airport or a hospital. But my desire to help this person superseded my self-centered preferences. I wanted to be a do-gooder, so I went to see her the very next day and continued visiting every day for the next few weeks. We chatted, sharing our experiences with each other. We weren’t exactly on the same wave length, but I did come to care about her.
She was truly a sad case and my heart responded in kind. To cheer her up I brought in my portable DVD player and rented 5 blockbuster movies for her. The next day I went back and her room was empty. The nurse said she left against medical advice. She pawned my DVD player and got enough money for another fix of crack. She’d been found just a few hours ago down the road. She over-dosed and was now in the emergency room. All this thanks to my help!
Then, one newly sober woman approached me and asked if I’d drive her to and from work every day for $10 each trip. It was quite a drive and the timing was inconvenient for me. But she was so excited to have gotten her first job in recovery. I considered this to be dutiful service work on my part so I hauled myself out of bed every morning at 6:00. Oh, what a joy! On our first drive to work, she said I’d have to wait for her first paycheck – in two weeks – before she could pay me. Well, that was unexpected. Now I am spending gas money in advance which I could barely afford at the time. But, I was determined to help her get on her feet. Two days before her paycheck was due, she disappeared. I never got paid and never heard from her again.
So much for the altruistic image I tried to wear. It clearly wasn’t working. I was furious. My sober support friends chuckled it off and went on to explain about the difference between helping, enabling and setting boundaries. They also taught me early on not to take it personally. None of it is about me and it’s all about helping them in a healthy way and without hidden expectations. It’s really not about making me feel better about myself at all. I became a lot more humbled and a little less self-centered.
I soon got better at it. I looked for ways to give ongoing guidance and a caring ear. I sought to provide opportunities for newcomers by connecting them with
willing sources for everything from employment, shared-housing and assistance, to shared rides to meetings, sober support and how to socialize without drinking. I let go of all my expectations for them as I came to recognize that it was their life and their choices. Without their willingness, I could do nothing for them. In the end, what I gained was immeasurable.
By the time I finished doing my 5th step, I was ready to be a sponsor. Another big step forward in my sobriety. I found sponsoring to be 100% selfless. It had nothing to do about me, my image or my hopes for them. With no strings attached, my sponsees were enabled to make their own choices and win their own victories.
There was an incredible side-effect though. I developed a deep sense of gratitude and self-worth from helping others. It wasn’t until I gave away something of myself, that I became aware I had anything of value to give. And, giving up the control leaves room for their willingness to rise and opportunity for a higher power to emerge from within and enliven us all.
Don’t worry about numbers. Help one person at a time.